Teaching Students with ASD “High Value Skills for High Value Work” at FilmAcademy360

A smiling young man wearing headphones works at a computer in the FilmAcademy360 production studio. There is a green screena dn other students working in the background.When Program Director David Di Ianni created FilmAcademy360, a part of Spectrum360 in Livingston, New Jersey, he was interested in teaching students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) “high value skills for high value work.” What he means by that, he says, is that with appropriate training and skill development, the young adults in the program could someday attain work that is both stimulating and well paid. A cohort of seven students with ASD recently completed the FilmAcademy360 program in advanced video editing with great success, opening doors to future professional opportunities.

The FilmAcademy360 program has three phases, beginning with introducing students to theoretical concepts of editing and basic filmmaking. Students, who visit the studio twice a week, learned things like thinking in shots and understanding the progression of shots as a basis for visual storytelling media. Di Ianni says understanding this cinematic language is “…a necessary skill for all filmmakers and digital storytellers.”

Two young men operate a video camera.Phase two of the program was the teaching of Adobe Premiere professional editing software. A major goal of the FilmAcademy360 program was for students to gain proficiency in 10 categories of skills using the software, demonstrated through a score of 80% or higher on assessments. Di Ianni says that, after realizing the recent cohort of students were very visual learners, they adapted the text-heavy Adobe Premiere curriculum and added video lessons. The video curriculum, in conjunction with their in-person classroom instruction, helped all seven students pass the skills assessments, several with perfect scores.

The third phase of the program exposed the students to a professional work environment, both at the FilmAcademy360 production studio and at nearby Elm City Communications. The young adults were encouraged to develop relationships with outside producers, hopefully leading to future work opportunities. Students created their own professional showreel to submit to potential employers, along with a resume and profiles on websites like Upwork and Freelancer.com. Di Ianni and the other instructors also worked closely with the students on verbal and nonverbal communication skills, using video recordings as a learning tool.

A young woman looks up from her computer where she is editing video. She is wearing a denim jacket and green shirt.Di Ianni emphasizes that even though the program may be over for their recent seven students, FilmAcademy360 will continue to support their professional development. “We have an open door policy to support these students,” he says, continuing, “If they get a freelance gig, they can come into our studio and do the work here. We made a commitment to these students, and intend to support their future progress to whatever degree we can.”

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